Sneak Preview: DOJ OIG Calls For Return of Unspent JRJ Funds

July 2, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xsass_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs in the coming months will request states that have failed to spend their full allotment of John R. Justice grant program award funds to return the unspent funds to the agency, as required. Moreover, the DOJ Office of Inspector General is calling for OJP ramp up its efforts to ensure those funds are returned.

The John R. Justice (JRJ) program, administered by OJP Bureau of Justice Assistance, provides grants to states and U.S. territories to improve the recruitment and retention of talented attorneys who might otherwise choose higher-paying private sector careers to choose careers as prosecutors and public defenders by providing loan repayment assistance on student loans. From fiscal year 2010 to FY 2014, BJA received more than $28 million to administer the program and provide more than 200 grants to states and territories.

In a recent audit, the DOJ OIG found that OJP did not closely monitor the program. For example, states had not provided almost $500,000 in JRJ funds to public service attorneys after the grant period had ended. “Had the BJA monitored the awards more closely, it could have encouraged the states to implement the award fully, or requested the return of unspent funds,” OIG said. “The BJA also could have identified states that were not using their funds effectively and adjusted future state allocations accordingly. Our audit identified another $650,000 in unused JRJ funds that should have been put to a better use.”

OIG also determined that BJA did not maintain adequate records on states’ use of JRJ funds and failed to ensure that program beneficiaries repaid funds when they left the program early. BJA lacked necessary documentation on the total number of individual prosecutors and public defenders who received awards from the states or the amounts of grant funds awarded to these JRJ beneficiaries, OIG found, adding that BJA also could not produce service agreements for many JRJ beneficiaries who are required to sign such an agreement committing to remain in eligible public service employment for at least three years after receipt of funds.

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